by Mark Ragsdale
Recently, an article came to my attention with basically the same title, written by Gary Petty and published in The Good News by the United Church of Christ. I have read several issues of this magazine, and have had no problem with it until now. The basic premise of the article is to say that belief of an immortal soul originated with Plato and Socrates, and has no root in Christian beliefs. Is this right? The author does not go very deep into the scriptures for his contentions, but stays with philosophers and the early church fathers, falsely claiming some of them into the Catholic Church, but that is another argument.
So, if the belief of an immortal soul is pagan in concept, what does Mr. Petty contend is the biblical view? That when we die, we go into some sort of limbo state, unconsciousness, until the Resurrection, when we will caught up with Christ. He bases this on certain passages where death is referred to as "sleep". (1 Corinthians 15:51-58, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) Instead of a few scriptures, let's look at far more to really see what the Bible says about it.
Paul looks at death this way: "I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far". (Philipians 1:23) Departing this life, Paul looked at being with Christ right away at the point of death, not in only a future time. Yeshua described death in the story of Lazarus and the rich man. (Luke 16:20-31) "The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, `Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'"
Right here in the story, we have both the beggar and the rich man not unconscious, but very much conscious, and interacting with other 'sleeping' people, some of whom had been dead for centuries!
Even in the future, we see where dead people are conscious and speaking with The Most High, "When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?" Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed." (Revelation 6:9-11). People who are killed and "lie in the grave and know nothing, think no thoughts, have no emotions, possess no consciousness", (Gary Petty, in the article) how can they call out in a loud voice, or even call out across the gulf between heaven and hell?
Paul again speaks clearly on the subject. I'm surprised that Mr. Petty did not see it: "Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord." (2 Corinthians 5:6-8) When we are away from the body, and the only way I know how to do that is by death, we are at home with the Lord. Dead here, alive there. Instantly. No waiting. No limbo. No unconsciousness.
More proof? Alright. Let's go to Mark 12:27 and Yeshua says, "He is not the God of the dead, but of the living." The Living God is the God of the living saints, not the unconscious saints. In Mark 9:2-10 (and in other passages) we have the account of the Transfiguration. Who else appeared there with Yeshua in His glory? Moses and Elijah, very much conscious and alive, even though they have been dead for a few years. What did they do? They talked with Yeshua about His death. If they were unconscious, as Mr. Petty states, how could they know these things?
In 2 Kings chapter 2, we have the account of Elijah being taken to heaven in a whirlwind. Elijah is the second person not to die. (Enoch being the first) Elijah is taken directly to heaven, not to some unconscious state to await the final days.
One final example is from Ecclesiastes 12:7. "and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it." The spirit of man, or his soul, if you will, returns to Jah upon death. Where is Jah? In heaven.
In conclusion, we can see, straight from the bible, that Mr. Petty is clearly wrong in his statement that the dead lie around in the grave doing and knowing nothing until the resurrection. The Bible says differently!
The best way not to get hung up on man's interpretations is to read the Bible yourself. The Bible says that the Spirit of Jah, Himself, will be your teacher. With a teacher like that, you can not go wrong. But this applies only to those who know Yeshua. If you don't know Him, He does know you and this promise will apply to you: "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels."
Don't let this happen to you. Get to know The Creator of the Universe today.
Click on this Salvation link!